by Karen Ball
Thanks for all the great comments and conversation on what needed to be edited in the text I posted in my last blog (Editing 101 – Y0ur Turn). You all made some great observations!
Below you’ll find the edited text. I tried doing it in Track Changes, which is what I usually use to edit a manuscript, but the blog server didn’t like that much. So I’ve made the edits red (think the dreaded red pen), and highlighted my comments for the author (who happens to be me, so I don’t say in my comments what I always say to my authors: feel free to change as you wish! It’s imperative the author knows my edits are suggestions, not mandates). The comments follow the section they refer to.
Sorry if this is confusing. Ah, the joys of finding programs that play nice together.
See if you agree with what I felt were the main editing issues.
Sammy said it was a long time since he seen Rufus. Said the ol’ dog shoulda been home long time ago. Said somethin’ musta happened to the mutt and said it was my fault fer bein’ so stupid and not tyin’ him up when I shoulda.
EdNote: Dialect works well to give us a sense of place and characters, but be careful not to overuse it. It can become a speed bump for the readers, and the last thing you want to do is bump the reader out of the story while he tries to figure out what you’re saying. Also, best to stick with usual spelling, especially with small words like sew/so and wh’n/when. With those words, the readers eye just blips over them. You don’t want to make the reader stop and have to figure out what the word is.
“Gilly, you no good” he said to me. Like he was so good and special.
EdNote: Shift in tense here. You started out in past tense, this is present tense. Need to stay consistent.
We lived on the coast, but I hardly ever saw the ocean. We lived deep in the woods, in this rundown shack Sammy called a house. We didn’t go to town much. Just to buy food. I hated going to town. People always gave me
EdNote: Nice bit of info and characterization here, but you changed from first person POV to third. Need to stay consistent.
that curled-up-nose look. One time a fancy-dressed lady called me “little white trash.” Didn’t know what that meant, so I asked Sammy.
EdNote: Missing punctuation with the adjective. Also structure was confusing. Most people know what that kind of look means, so no need for the “bad smell” explanation.
“Means stupid.” Now he had that curled-up-nose look. “Means you’re stupid. Like when you don’t tie up the dog.”
EdNote: Missing punctuation with dialogue. Also, inserted a beat to add texture.
But I didn’t like tying up the dog. The rope was too short. He couldn’t move around. I wouldn’t wanna tied up like that. “Don’t want to tie him up.”
EdNote: Shift in character voice. She’s suddenly sounding educated. Let’s keep her voice consistent.
“What I care what you want?”
Sammy snarls the words. Like a dog with a bone warnin’ another dog to stand clear.
“I telled you to tie ol’ Rufus up last night, and you didn’t. Again. So guess what? Ol’ Rufus is off somewhere, visiting garbage cans and makin’ hisself sick. No good girl.” Sammy looks at the ceiling, like someone up there is listenin’ to him. “If I’d had a son, he woulda listened. But no. I got this no-good girl of a daughter. She never listens to me. Darned girl.”
Ed Note: POV shift from Gilly to Sammy. You need to stay in one POV in the scene. Head-hopping just confuses the reader.
He looks back at me, then, and I wish he hadn’t.
EdNote: Use a beat here to show he’s talking to her now rather than the ceiling.
“If’n that dog dies, I’m gonna make you wish you’d gone with him!”
He’s yellin’ again. Doesn’t bother me much. Sammy always yells. At me. At Rufus. At the ceiling. “I already wish I’d gone with him. Anythin’s better than bein’ here with you.” I choked on the last words. Don’t know why. Just did.
He didn’t answer, but I knew what he was thinkin’. What he always thought, and said, when he looked at me like that.
How much he wished I hadn’t been born.
Well, that’s fine.
I didn’t think all that much of him, either.
EdNote: Edits here to add texture, to get us inside Gilly’s head. We need to see what she’s thinking and feeling—to feel it ourselves. If you keep us distant from her, we won’t care what happens to her.
In the next few weeks we’ll talk about the specific issues I addressed, why they matter, and how we writers can create a “self-editing” checklist to use on our own work. We’ll also discuss putting together a style sheet that you can send with your manuscript to an editor to ensure your preferences and writing style are understood and honored.
But for right now, I’d love to know:
Anything you think I shouldn’t have changed?
Anything I missed?
Let me hear your thoughts.